Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Lemon Blanc Mange: A Refreshing Historic Dessert

Lemon Blanc Mange


The following recipe comes from a collection of recipes found in a manuscript journal located in the H. Furlong Baldwin Library at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. The manuscript is attributed to Ann Maria Morris and the date of 1824 is written on the inside cover. The recipe below is one of many from the manuscript that will be included in a book I am writing. The book will contain biographical information about Mrs. Morris, an annotated transcript of the entire manuscript as it was written, and a section of modern recipe adaptations (including this one!).


Lemon Blanc Mange
Pour a pint of warm water on one oz. of Isinglass, when dissolved, add the juice of 3 lemons, the peel of one grated, the yelks of 6 eggs, half pint of wine sweetened with sugar—1 lb. & quarter and boil it.




Source: Isabella Beeton, Beeton's Book of Household Management 

Blanc Mange
Blanc mange/blancmange is an anglicized version of the French term, blanc manger, which simply means "white food." According to the Oxford English Dictionary, blanc mange/blancmange is "a sweetmeat made of dissolved isinglass or gelatine boiled with milk, etc., and forming an opaque white jelly; also a preparation of cornflour and milk, with flavouring substances." An older meaning of the term actually refers to a sweet and savory substance made of  "fowl, . . . but also of other meat, minced with cream, rice, almonds, sugar, eggs, etc."

While there may be a wide variation on the manner in which these recipes were constructed, opaqueness is their most distinguishing and therefore consistent trait, as opposed to a clear gelatin. What is also traditional and seemingly contradictory to the name of this dish is that often color was added to the recipes , therefore belying the original "white" intent. This recipe for a yellow lemon blanc mange is a perfect example of this practice. 

There are many recipes in 18th-19th c. American and British cookery books for a variety of types of sweet blanc manges. The recipe in the Morris manuscript is distinctly different in that it uses wine and egg yolks as opposed to milk or cream to  make the pudding opaque, the key to any blanc mange.

Here a some other historic blanc mange recipes to look at:

1717:  The Accomplished Housekeeper and Universal Cook by T.Williams, London:
This recipe is very interesting because it offers ways to color the blanc mange in a variety of ways (green, red, yellow and violet) and even suggests layering the colors to make a rainbow style blanc mange.  Also, note that to serve just the plain white style blanc mange, there are directions to "garnish with jellies of different colours."



1777: The Lady's Assistant by Charlotte Mason, London:
This set of recipes is really fun because of the many creative ways Mason suggests the gelled pudding can be made. I particularly like her idea to make a faux poached egg using white blanc mange for the egg white and a preserved apricot for the yolk!




1
1884: Mrs. Owens Cook Book and Useful Household Hints by Frances Owens, Chicago:
In a preface to the section on blanc mange, Frances Owens offers her American readers a nice description of varieties of blanc mange to make and useful hints about the best way to make them.




Lemon Blanc Mange: Modern Recipe Adaptation

Ingredients:
  • 1 Cup White Wine
  • 3 Cups Sugar
  • 2 Cups Cold Water
  • 1-Ounce Package Knox Unflavored Gelatin
  • Juice of 3 Lemons
  • Grated Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 6 Egg Yolks*
Directions:

1. Place the wine and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, until the mixture has reduced and is syrupy.
2. While the wine/sugar mixture is cooking, place the cold water in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle all of the gelatin on top and set it aside.
3.  When the wine/sugar syrup is ready, add the lemon juice and zest to it and stir. Then, add this mixture to the cold gelatin in the large mixing bowl and stir well. The mixture will still be too hot to add the raw egg yolks without tempering. Follow the next step carefully to temper the eggs.
4.  Place the egg yolks in a small mixing bowl and whisk. Then, add about 1/4 cup of the hot gelatin mixture to the egg yolks and stir well.  Then, add the egg yolks to the larger mixing bowl with the hot gelatin. Stir well. Note: You need to do it this way to avoid the egg yolks from cooking and scrambling, so don't leave this step out!*
5.   Pour the mixture into a medium-sized decorative jelly mold and refrigerate several hours until the jelly is completely firm.
6.  Place the mold in a bowl of hot water for 30-60 seconds to help release it from the mold. Turn out onto a plate and decorate with slices of lemon and mint.





*Consuming raw or undercooked eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness. 

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